I ran into a friend in my club’s parking lot as he was loading his clubs into a travel bag. I asked him where he was going. “To the airport, where I’m catching a red-eye to Toronto. I am then hooking up with three friends and we are taking a flight to Nova Scotia. After a four-hour drive to Cabot Links, we have a tee time late tomorrow afternoon.”
To a non-golfer, such an itinerary must sound extraordinary. To the avid golfer, it is an acceptable, albeit devoted schedule for the chance to tee it up at a coveted golf destination.
This willingness for self-flagellation to reach a golf destination is a relatively new normal. What caused this change in acceptance for an arduous journey? Two words: Bandon Dunes.
Before Mike Keiser’s vision of developing a premier resort so far off the beaten path in remote coastal Oregon, many thought it impossible to be a success. Most of the top golf resorts were outside major cities, within a quick plane trip and/or short car ride. The main travel concerns were ordering “chicken or beef” from the flight attendant and making sure that the mixed tape wasn’t too short for the journey.
But then along came Bandon Dunes’ opening in May 1999 as one of the most spectacular golf resorts in the world but also one of the more challenging for travelers. And yet, getting there was half of the fun. Regaling friends with the efforts undertaken to arrive was part of the Bandon lore and what attracted so many “Bandonistas” over the years. Clearly, a great golf experience offset the travel challenges. It has become easier to get Bandon Dunes, with flights added from a variety of airports, but the end result – a spectacular golf experience – hasn’t changed. And that, many operators and golfers alike have come to realize, is the golden ticket.
The remarkable success at Bandon Dunes not only led to more courses being built there but also to a movement to develop golf resorts in locations that previously would not have been considered. On any list of top resorts in North America, destinations such as Pinehurst, North Carolina; Monterey, California; Maui, Hawaii; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina are among the most prominent. But so are Nekoosa, Wisconsin (Sand Valley); Valentine, Nebraska (The Prairie Club); Seneca, Oregon (Silvies Valley Ranch); Brewster, Washington (Gamble Sands); Bowling Green, Florida (Streamsong); and the aforementioned Inverness, Nova Scotia (Cabot Links).
For the avid golfer, the slate of must-play golf destinations never has been more diverse or more plentiful. Though some destinations might require a little more investment of time to get there, the reward is an amazing golf experience that is well worth it.